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Hospital used as shelter

The 10-bed regional hospital that serves the medical needs of 5,000 people on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island has been doing extra duty lately as an emergency shelter for the homeless and poorly housed, says the mayor of Tofino.

Josie Osborne says she and her council were shocked to discover that Tofino General Hospital regularly provides beds and meals for people who arrive at the facility for treatment who would normally not require in-patient service.

A delegation from Island Health, including the area's medical health officer and a hospital doctor, appeared at Tofino council last month when the issue was discussed, she said.

“I personally was unaware that people were staying overnight in the hospital sometimes because they simply didn't have an adequate home to go back to,” said Osborne. “That's deeply concerning.”

Tofino General Hospital serves as a regional health facility for a vast region of eight communities, some of which are accessible only by boat or float plane. Osborne said due to the distances some people travel and the remoteness of their communities, the hospital sometimes admits people overnight who can't make it home after treatment, although the homeless issue is a recent development.

“But there are a few people who live in Tofino who present at the hospital and they've got both medical and social reasons why the hospital staff choose to admit them overnight,” said Osborne. “It is effectively acting as a temporary shelter for some people who don't have a safe home or a healthy place to return to at night.”

She said hospital staff now admit people on a regular basis overnight who have no other place to go.

“It's a clarion call, I think, to the entire community to say we have problems we have to talk about,” Osborne said. “They are difficult to talk about but we've got to resolve these.”

She said she doesn't believe the hospital is planning to close its doors to the homeless.

“I don't get the sense the hospital is upset,” Osborne said.

Island Health spokeswoman Shannon Marshall said B.C. hospitals, including Tofino General, do not consider themselves emergency homeless shelters, but patients without housing are often admitted overnight to allow health officials to help make plans for their futures.

Tofino regularly struggles with affordable housing shortages for local workers who serve the area's thousands of tourists, but now the accommodation crisis is hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest, said Osborne.

“With the exception of higher end market housing, it's very difficult for people to find something affordable for their income range,” she said. “That goes from professionals down to tourism front-line workers to retirees who move to the community and want to spend their time here.”

Tofino is in the planning stages of developing an affordable, multi-unit, rental housing project on municipal land, but a completion date has not been set, said Osborne.

She said discovering the local hospital is serving as an emergency shelter heightens the need to address the housing shortfall in the community.

“It just raises the level of awareness that there are gaps at all levels, especially when you hear about the gaps for our more vulnerable population.”

The B.C. Housing Ministry said in a statement the situation in Tofino demonstrates how the housing crisis is affecting communities. The province has committed to building 114,000new affordable homes over 10 years.



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Pooch gets into pot at park

A Coquitlam pet owner is thankful her dog is OK after it got into what she believes was a cannabis product at a local dog park.

Michelle Tuan says her dog, Dorito, started acting strangely after a visit to Leigh Dog Park on Wednesday.

"His whole body was kind of like, curved... sort of walking almost sideways toward me," Tuan told CTV News. “I thought he was having a stroke.

When the symptoms persisted, she took Dorito to the vet the next day, and was told the dog had likely ingested some kind of drug. A urine test confirmed it was cannabis.

"We have a lot more dogs coming in regularly that have ingested marijuana," veterinarian Fraser Davidson said.

"Fortunately, the signs – while they're disturbing – don't tend to be life-threatening, so it's more just the animals going through a miserable time."

Dorito is feeling better after being given a charcoal solution to help remove the THC from his system.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

 



Nanaimo byelection called

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a May byelection in B.C. to fill a seat vacated by a former New Democrat.

The Prime Minister's Office has set May 6 as the date for the ballot for Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

The riding opened up when former New Democrat member of Parliament Sheila Malcolmson resigned in January to run successfully for the provincial New Democrats.

Malcolmson was one of several NDP MPs who decided not to run again in October's federal election.

The list includes B.C. MP Murray Rankin, Alberta MP Linda Duncan, Ontario MPs Irene Mathyssen and David Christopherson, Quebec's Helene Laverdiere, Romeo Saganash, Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet and Anne Minh-Thu Quach and B.C.'s Fin Donnelly.

Bob Chamberlin, a long-serving chief counsellor of a First Nation based on Gilford Island in the Broughton Archipelago off northeastern Vancouver Island, has said he intends to seek the NDP candidacy in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.



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Super sniffer on the job

There has been a "Major" addition to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, and Sgt. Cynthia Mann can't stop gushing about her new partner.

He has a knack for detecting unusual smells like bear gall bladders, firearms, shell casings, zebra and quagga mussels – dead or alive.  

And all he asks for in return is his favourite toy and a "Good boy."

Major is the service’s second detection dog, and has been on the job since early December.

“They are just incredible animals, and his drive blows me away. When I put on his harness and show him his toy, that dog switches everything off and he’s zoned into work,” said Mann, who’s based in Nelson.

The service's other detection dog, Kilo, is based in Kelowna with Sgt. Josh Lockwood.

Major will primarily be on the road from late March to October, searching for invasive mussels on boats travelling through and into B.C.

But he can also assist officers with a variety of other investigations by finding shell casings, poached animals or illegal firearms hidden inside vehicles during hunting season.

“He just goes nuts when he makes a find,” says Mann, who’s with Major 24/7, but keeps him in a crate at night. “He’s not my pet, and that’s something as a handler you have to really keep in mind. We have a great time together and he gets a lot of affection, but he is a working dog.”

Beginning in early April, Major and Kilo will be at 12 watercraft inspection stations set up at key points throughout the province. In his first year, Kilo conducted more than 900 inspections.  

Suspected invasive mussels should be disclosed to the report all poachers and polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277.



$18.6M rescue funding

The British Columbia government has announced more funding to search and rescue groups throughout the province to be used over the next three years.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says the province is providing $18.6 million to help ground search and rescue groups with operations, training, equipment and activities.

He says the funding will also support the province's search and rescue groups to develop and implement a new governance and funding model.

BC Search and Rescue Association president Chris Kelly says the funds will provide critical supports over the next three years, while final details are completed in the short term on a sustainable model.

This new funding is in addition to funding that the government already provides each year to cover search and rescue operational costs for deployment, training, equipment, and the insurance and liability for the 80 groups serving B.C.

The province has 2,500 registered search and rescue volunteers responding to more than 1,600 incidents each year.



Stolen Bentley found

UPDATE:8:45 a.m.

RCMP have found the stolen Bentley that was seen driving the wrong way on the Coquihalla Highway Friday.

Owner Raymond Campbell posted to Facebook relieved and thankful no one was hurt. 

''The car has been found in Summerland. No driver, but personal possessions that are not mine including a hard hat and personal journals that belong to someone named Rhonda were found.''

''No one was hurt and that's the main thing. RCMP now have the car. The car was well down a dirt road near a construction site,''Campbell said. 


UPDATE: 8:20 a.m.

Okanagan resident Brian Smith believes he drove by the stolen Bentley Friday night. 

''We saw the car on Princeton Summerland Road tonight. It was abandoned with the doors open full of crap inside,'' the Facebook message said. 

RCMP have yet to confirm the incident. 


UPDATE: 6:15 p.m.

A Bentley seen driving the wrong way on the Coquihalla Highway was apparently stolen in Coquitlam.

Owner Raymond Campbell posted on Facebook Thursday that the high-dollar convertible had been stolen.

Campbell is general manager of DriveCo Motors in Coquitlam.

"Please help .. Stolen Bentley convertible gray in color Taken from 84th Ave. in Langley. License Plate GH9 49R. Was taken between 1 am and 9 a.m. this morning," Campbell posted.

And today, he shared that the Bentley had last been spotted in Vernon by another Facebook user and that Kelowna RCMP had attempted to pull it over, but ended their pursuit Thursday evening in the interests of public safety.

The fleeing driver may have evaded as many as three pursuits on their dash from the Lower Mainland.

Police have yet to comment on the incident, however.

"This is crazy. They could have killed someone," Campbell said in his post.

UPDATE 12:05 p.m.

A police spokesperson says Merritt RCMP carried out an investigation Thursday into the Bentley "and its actions."

Unfortunately, the lead investigator on the file is on night duty and unable to immediately comment.

Castanet will update this story when more information becomes available.


ORIGINAL 9:45 a.m.

A motorist on the Coquihalla Highway Thursday had to dodge an oncoming vehicle, driving the wrong way on the divided four-lane highway.

Jon Corrigon was driving south on Highway 5, about five kilometres north of the Othello Lake Road exit, when he was forced to change lanes to avoid a Bentley driving north at high speed in the southbound lane.

“I was paying full attention and still had only a few seconds to spare, this guy was hauling up the hill,” he wrote on the dash camera footage uploaded to YouTube and shared on the Vernon Rant and Rave Facebook page.

Castanet has reached out to the owner of the video and RCMP for more information. 



Hospital serves as shelter

The 10-bed regional hospital that serves the medical needs of 5,000 people on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island has been doing extra duty lately as an emergency shelter for the homeless and poorly housed, says the mayor of Tofino.

Josie Osborne says she and her council were shocked to discover that Tofino General Hospital regularly provides beds and meals for people who arrive at the facility for treatment who would normally not require in-patient service.

A delegation from Island Health, including the area's medical health officer and a hospital doctor, appeared at Tofino council last month when the issue was discussed, she said.

"I personally was unaware that people were staying overnight in the hospital sometimes because they simply didn't have an adequate home to go back to," said Osborne. "That's deeply concerning."

Tofino General Hospital serves as a regional health facility for a vast region of eight communities, some of which are accessible only by boat or float plane. Osborne said due to the distances some people travel and the remoteness of their communities, the hospital sometimes admits people overnight who can't make it home after treatment, although the homeless issue is a recent development.

"But there are a few people who live in Tofino who present at the hospital and they've got both medical and social reasons why the hospital staff choose to admit them overnight," said Osborne. "It is effectively acting as a temporary shelter for some people who don't have a safe home or a healthy place to return to at night."

She said hospital staff now admit people on a regular basis overnight who have no other place to go.

"It's a clarion call, I think, to the entire community to say we have problems we have to talk about," Osborne said. "They are difficult to talk about but we've got to resolve these."

She said she doesn't believe the hospital is planning to close its doors to the homeless.

"I don't get the sense the hospital is upset," Osborne said.

Island Health spokeswoman Shannon Marshall said B.C. hospitals, including Tofino General, do not consider themselves emergency homeless shelters, but patients without housing are often admitted overnight to allow health officials to help make plans for their futures.

Tofino regularly struggles with affordable housing shortages for local workers who serve the area's thousands of tourists, but now the accommodation crisis is hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest, said Osborne.

"With the exception of higher end market housing, it's very difficult for people to find something affordable for their income range," she said. "That goes from professionals down to tourism front-line workers to retirees who move to the community and want to spend their time here."

Tofino is in the planning stages of developing an affordable, multi-unit, rental housing project on municipal land, but a completion date has not been set, said Osborne.

She said discovering the local hospital is serving as an emergency shelter heightens the need to address the housing shortfall in the community.

"It just raises the level of awareness that there are gaps at all levels, especially when you hear about the gaps for our more vulnerable population."

The B.C. Housing Ministry said in a statement the situation in Tofino demonstrates how the housing crisis is affecting communities. The province has committed to building 114,000 new affordable homes over 10 years.



Drugs and firearms seized

RCMP have seized illegal drugs, firearms, and arrested five people in Chilliwack. 

Three investigations across the city led to the arrest of a 30-year-old-man during a traffic stop Feb. 12.

A search of an apartment on McIntosh Drive that evening turned up crack cocaine, cocaine, shatter and cannabis resin, and cash.

Cellphones and a vehicle were seized during the arrest, and a large amount of drugs and trafficking paraphernalia, along with an SKS rifle, during the search.

A second search warrant executed on Gore Avenue led to three arrests and the seizure of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

​Personal and credit card information, computers, and stolen bicycles were also found.

A fifth person was arrested during a third investigation in which 476 marijuana plants were found at a home on Bridal Ridge Crescent.



Large brush fire closes road

A large brush fire closed a section of roadway in Surrey Friday night. 

Surrey's traffic management centre said 88 Avenue was blocked off between 168 and 176 Streets shortly after 6 p.m.

Flames and smoke were visible as crews worked to extinguish the blaze, CTV News reports. 

The cause of the fire is not yet known. 

-With files from CTV Vancouver



Stolen sleds recovered

A utility trailer containing snowmobiles stolen in Revelstoke on Tuesday was recovered in Creston on Thursday.

Revelstoke RCMP Cpl. Thomas Blakney says two occupants of a pickup were caught on video surveillance on the 1800 block of Lafarge Boulevard stealing the Saskatchewan sleds about one in the morning.

Creston RCMP recovered the stolen equipment on a rural property and say a person of interest has been identified.

Police advise sledders to use trailer locks and park in well-lit areas, as well as parking strategically to block each other in to discourage thieves.

Take photos of your equipment, including licence plates and vehicle identification numbers.



Fatal motorcycle crash

A motorcycle rider was killed in a three-vehicle crash in Nanaimo, Friday.

The two other drivers were taken to hospital with minor injuries after the collision shut down a northbound lane of Highway 19A about noon, CTV News reports.

Coroners were at the scene along with an RCMP traffic analyst.

– with files from CTV Vancouver Island



Groping suspect sought

RCMP in Surrey have released sketches of a suspect in a sexual assault in the Newton area. 

On March 13, about 9:30 p.m., a woman was grabbed from behind and groped as she was walking on 124th Street near 72nd Avenue.

The woman was able to get away from the man, but he followed her to her front door and attempted to assault her again, police say. The woman managed to get inside, and the man was last seen heading south on 124th Street. 

The suspect is described as five feet 10 inches tall, with a skinny build and a short black beard. His ethnicity is unknown. 

Surrey RCMP's Special Victims Unit is appealing for any witnesses to come forward with information, along with any drivers who may have dash cam video from the area.

Anyone with information is asked to call Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or www.solvecrime.ca.



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